12 January 2015

Isaiah 42:1-9

“I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 150


The opening words of today's passage will be familiar to many as they are used by the New Testament Gospels to provide a heavenly affirmation of Jesus and his ministry at the time of his Baptism by John, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11). However it is likely that they were originally intended to refer to Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians, who in the middle of the 6th century BC was to sweep across the Babylonian empire. He was seen as 'the Lord's anointed' (Isaiah 45:1) because his conquests would ultimately enable the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem.

This passage is also familiar as one of four 'servant songs' in Isaiah, (the others being Isaiah 49:1-6; 50:3-9; 52:13-53:12), which are commonly regarded as Messianic and therefore describing what the expected saviour of the Jewish people would be like. Whilst his characteristics are described in greater detail in the later servant songs, in this passage we can already get a clear picture that he is God's"chosen one (verse 1), that God's Spirit would be visible within him (verse 1), and that he would "bring forth justice" (vv. 1, 3).

His ministry would be to the poor and the marginalised, people who are described as a fragile "bruised reed" or those with so little hope that it is at risk of being lost like a "dimly burning wick" (v. 3). Not only that but he would go further and become the light for the people to see by and follow (verse 6-7).

The Jewish exiles must have felt that they would never be able to return home, that God had forgotten about them and abandoned them. However these words remind them that their God is not only the creator of heaven and earth and all that is in it, but also retains a direct personal relationship with people and has "taken you by the hand and kept you" (v. 6). What has happened in the past has happened, but now is the time to move forward in hope to "new things" (v. 9).

To Ponder

  • Light a candle, or use a mobile phone light in a darkened room, and think of those who feel fragile, vulnerable or lacking hope.
  • Consider current events that are reported in the news today and pray for people who are bringing light to dark situations and for those who are striving for justice.
  • What can you do to enable "new things" to become a reality in your community?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.